THE ISSUE: Completion of the Halls River bridge is near.
OUR OPINION: Maybe this time it’s for real.
When Homosassa’s Halls River bridge project began in January 2017, it was everything that’s good: replacement of a deteriorating, 50-plus-years-old bridge with a wider one boasting new, long-life technology, and all costs were covered by the federal government through the Florida Department of Transportation, which was in charge of construction.
FDOT even featured the Halls River bridge in its online Technology Showcase, calling it an ideal candidate for implementation of corrosion-free structural elements. The blog quoted representatives from FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and the University of Miami College of Engineering who teamed up to “monitor every aspect of this project, including fabrication, construction, and installation of experimental technologies.”
No one ever dreamed that in mid-2019 we would still be dealing with the chaos that accompanied this project. Initial estimates slated completion for mid-2018. Then early 2019. Then mid-2019. And although an FDOT representative said recently that we should expect to see it completed this month, there’s an FDOT bulletin online that mentions the end of 2019. The price began as $6.2 million but now FDOT pegs it at $7.6 million.
It’s not the experimental technology that has plagued this project, it’s practically everything else. Workers ran into hard layers of weathered limestone, and depressions formed. There were problems with pilings and seawall. A freak accident saw a truck hanging partially off the new bridge’s railing. There were torrential rains. When the primary contractor defaulted, FDOT had to find another to finish the job. And the residents in the area just couldn’t catch a break: single-lane traffic with a flagger or traffic light was the norm for far too many months.
Finally, the bridge opened to two-way traffic, and now FDOT says it will be substantially completed by mid-August. We certainly hope so.
It’s a shame that a showcase project for low-maintenance, long-life experimental bridge construction turned into such a neighborhood negative. We look forward to the day when this massive aggravation is just a distant memory, and everyone can enjoy the 12-foot travel lanes, 8-foot shoulders and 5-foot sidewalks on the new Halls River bridge.